Best columns: The U.S.
Trump’s threat to punish free speech
Donald Trump’s threat to sue The New York Times is yet another sign of his “dangerously authoritarian impulses,” said Eric Boehm. When the Times last week published bombshell accounts from two women who said he had “touched them inappropriately and without their consent,” Trump had his attorneys write a letter warning of a possible libel lawsuit if the paper didn’t retract the story. The Times’ lawyer essentially dared Trump to sue, saying he’s already ruined his own reputation; legally, he has no case whatsoever. But consider what Trump’s hollow threat reveals: He thinks it should be “off-limits” for the media to investigate behavior “he’s admitted to doing—bragged about doing, in fact.” This is the same Trump who has said he’d like to “open the libel laws” to make it easier for public figures like him to sue the media for opinion articles and news stories they deem “unfair.’’ Imagine what a President Trump might do with “federal prosecutors to do his bidding, rather than using his personal attorneys.” We are perilously close to sending to the White House a man who cannot—or will not—respect “basic rights held by the people of the country he wishes to lead.”
The Founders were no less divided
The New York Times
Both Republicans and Democrats are fond of citing the lofty principles of America’s Founding Fathers, said historian Alan Taylor. But the truth is that “instead of offering a single, cohesive, and enduring vision for America,” the Founders were bitterly divided and the politics of the era even more rancorous and shrill than today’s. In the early days of the republic, Thomas Jefferson’s Republicans favored a decentralized country with a weak federal government. Alexander Hamilton’s Federalists preferred a “powerful, centralized state” that could develop the U.S. into a major economic and military power. This fundamental disagreement produced conflicts so violent they would shock us today. “Partisans and journalists shot one another in duels over insults,” which is of course how Hamilton met his end. Political rivals had frequent fistfights or beat each other bloody in the street with canes. Political campaigns were rife with personal insults, sexual gossip, and other dirty tricks. Today, “we put the Founders on an imaginary pedestal” so we can masochistically “rebuke ourselves for having such petty politicians.” But our first leaders were deeply flawed, too, and they had largely the same arguments. “We are not to blame for clashing over the diverse principles” that the Founders wove into an ambiguous Constitution.
The end of an era for football?
“NFL ratings just fell off a cliff,” said Derek Thompson. This season, football viewer numbers “are down double digits across the board,” hitting Fox, CBS, NBC, and ESPN alike. One explanation is the “Godzilla of the 2016 presidential race,” which has siphoned off tens of millions of prime-time viewers, especially when the debates went up against games. Then there’s the 40 percent overall decline of cable viewership among teenagers and young 20-somethings. But there’s something deeper at work here: It appears we’ve entered “the twilight of a golden age of football.” The NFL now has few popular superstars who appeal to national audiences, and the league “has suffered some damaging publicrelations battles.” The ongoing concussion problem—and the league’s attempt to hide the brain damage suffered by hundreds of former players—has tainted the sport in the eyes of some fans. Colin Kaepernick’s race-centered protests of the national anthem—which many other players have joined—have turned off other fans. If football ratings don’t rise after the election, it will indicate that viewers are tuning out for a simple reason: “They just don’t think they’ll have much fun watching.”
“Google says the question ‘Is Trump trying to lose?’ has skyrocketed in popularity in recent days. Donald Trump is perhaps willing to be president but hasn’t been willing to do what was necessary to win. He never seriously tried to expand beyond his core support. He never wanted to spend the money, especially on TV advertising, that would be needed to do so. He did the country no favor by accepting the nomination. The appeal of “rigged” is obvious. It’s an argument that can continue to be prosecuted on-air after Election Day...[on] a Trump TV network. Mr. Trump need not, as losing candidates do, concede defeat and disappear. America, you’ve been played.’’
Holman Jenkins Jr. in The Wall Street Journal
It must be true... I read it in the tabloids
▪ A British animal lover whose husband gave her a dead, stuffed cat as an anniversary present sold it on eBay because she couldn’t stand looking at it. The woman, identified only as Catherine, said in the online ad that her husband gave her the taxidermied cat “because nothing says I love you like your favorite animal, only dead.” She added that the cat’s “tragic gaze is hauntingly beautiful in a way. Not in a way that I want in my house, but I imagine someone might.” She was right: The cat sold for $125.
▪ The latest fitness craze to hit American gyms is to get down on all fours and crawl like a baby. A new fitness routine called Original Strength prescribes that adherents crawl in the belief that mimicking the movements of young children can “reset” their body and help them recapture the strength and mobility they’ve lost over time. Tim Anderson, who helped devise the routine, says he’s taught crawling to coaches for the Cleveland Cavaliers and to personal trainers all over the world. He warned that crawling at the gym or outdoors will bring odd looks, with people wondering if “you’re looking for your contacts.”
▪ A Florida woman caused an explosion at a car wash after she used an industrial vacuum cleaner to suck up spilled gasoline from her trunk. A surveillance video shows the unidentified woman recoiling in shock as the gasoline hits the vacuum’s motor and bursts into flames. “It was a heck of an explosion,” said car wash owner Billy Barnwell. “It just burnt everything up.” The woman slammed the trunk shut after the blast and drove off without a word.